Stephen immerses himself in the rituals of the Roman Catholic faith.
He is resolved to be pious and give his life over to God. He must purge himself of the sins he has committed and the temptations that he faces daily. He engages on a strict regime of prayer, attending services and austerity. He suffers the freezing early morning conditions in order to make his way to Mass. He observes all the fasts that arise during the Church Calendar. He tries to sleep without movement to bring each of his senses under his control. For a short time he experiences exhilaration as he believes he is getting closer to God but he is wearing a mask, for deep down his old feelings still persist even though they are currently subdued. He is unable to keep up the discipline he has set himself and slowly his mask of piety starts to evaporate. He starts to wonder whether his hasty confession to the Capuchin was truly genuine and he tries to justify the relevance of the confession by whether in fact he has changed his life.
Stephen’s dedication to his faith does not go unnoticed and the School
Director discusses with him the possibility of taking up a religious vocation.
At first this is an attractive possibility. Stephen’s imagines what power he would have as a Priest. The School Director does not quiz Stephen about his religious vocation; he just seems keen to sign up another recruit. After further consideration, Stephen realizes that he could not devote his entire life to the Priesthood and has doubts whether he could control his emotions in order for him to carry out his duties properly.
At home, he learns that his family has to move. Their slide into
poverty continues as his father’s debts mount.
It seems that Stephen will have no stable home-life and spends little time with his family. He desperately desires to be free of his grim impoverished family and decides that his only chance of escape is through a University education.
He is concerned; however, that he still has no real direction in his life.
He continues to be apart from his fellow students who by and large regard him as aloof.
Whilst walking by the sea he observes a young girl who is wading in the
water with her skirts tucked up around her waist. Stephen is moved by the beauty of the scene and the girl turns and returns his gaze. Through his senses Stephen is in awe of the beautiful scene.
Although he sexually desires the girl, this is outweighed by his view of her through his artistic eyes.
This unknown girl suddenly enables Stephen to see where his future lies and it is not in Ireland, but abroad where he can shake off the oppressive life he has led to date.